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Letters 11/19/09

BoCC to PAWSD

Dear Editor:

This letter is in response to the article appearing in the SUN edition dated Nov. 5, 2009 titled “County Looking at PAWSD Financials.” The article reported that Al Bledsoe from the county’s Financial Advisory Task Force held a meeting with staff from the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) and had several questions concerning the PAWSD financial and economic models.

The goal of the BoCC is to get an independent analysis of PAWSD’s financial status for review by the community.

The BoCC has heard consistent comment from its constituents that the financial direction of PAWSD, particularly with the Dry Gulch project, is flawed and is negatively impacting our community. The BoCC feels the responsibility, as the elected representatives for the entire county, to the citizens of this county to examine and understand the impact that PAWSD finances will, or might have, on the citizens of Archuleta County.

The article included speculation that the county was attempting to dissolve PAWSD and take the utility company over. This is untrue. The BoCC has never stated in any forum that it is our intent to “take over” PAWSD. The fact is the BoCC cannot unilaterally dissolve the board, only the voting public can make a change of that nature.

We are concerned that the strategy of the PASWD board has been to “attack” anyone who is asking legitimate questions on issues having the potential to create a tremendous cost impact on our community. We believe the questions were legitimate and reasonable. The questions posed to PAWSD by Al are posted on the county Web site at www.archuletacounty.org for the public’s consideration.

Most of Al’s questions in the PAWSD meeting were directed at determining the reasonableness of projections used by PAWSD in establishing the need for and size of the Dry Gulch Project. Al’s review of available information seemed to indicate that the population projections used to forecast future water needs and funds available for financing those needs were grossly overstated.

We find it ironic that the same population projections Al was questioning were also covered in the same Pagosa Springs SUN edition of Nov. 5.. The Colorado Supreme Court has found the population projections used by PAWSD for the Dry Gulch Project were overstated and directed the issue to be remanded back to the Water Court for revision. We believe the Supreme Court’s opinion calls into question a fundamental building block of the rationale for the size of the Dry Gulch Project.

The BoCC is most appreciative of Al’s contribution and work in improving our financial condition. Mr. Bledsoe’s experience includes 33 years at Price Waterhouse Cooper as senior client relationship and audit partner. Al has agreed to allow us to post his resume on the Web site. We have complete confidence in Al’s business and accounting abilities; we find it surprising that PAWSD feels Al does not have the ability to ask intelligent questions regarding financial issues.

It is the intent of the Board of County Commissioners to seriously review Al’s findings. We believe that the Colorado Supreme Court’s recent opinion validates the need to revisit the assumptions utilized by PAWSD. In the spirit of a collaborative exchange of issues, the BoCC invites the PAWSD board to discuss these issues at a public forum at a date to be determined.

Bob Moomaw

Clifford Lucero

John Ranson

Archuleta County Commissioners

PAWSD to BoCC

Dear Editor:

A letter addressed to the BoCC.

Dear Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC):

The BoCC has determined to evaluate the 50-year Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) water plan and the PAWSD financial status and debt load. To accomplish this considerable undertaking, the BoCC has obtained the services of their Finance Task Force member, Mr. Al Bledsoe. The PAWSD Board respectfully requests that the BoCC and their agents thoroughly and completely evaluate PAWSD documents in depth so that any findings that result will be credible rather than being based on an incomplete analysis.

To accomplish the desired result, the PAWSD board feels that not only will it be necessary for the BoCC or its agents to consult in depth with key PAWSD staff but also it will be necessary to consult with the several individuals and companies who have assisted PAWSD over several years in water storage planning, water infrastructure upgrade requirements and in financial planning:

• Water engineering planning team: Harris Water Engineering, Davis Engineering, Briliam Engineering, MWH Engineering;

• Independent auditors: Wall, Smith, Bateman and Associates, Clark, White and Associates;

• Financial planning consultants: Stan Bernstein and Associates, BBC Research and Consulting, Drew Financial LLC;

• Financial and managerial analysts: Stantec Consulting, Malcolm Pirnie;

• Bond counsel and underwriters: Kutak Rock, George K. Baum and Associates;

• State review and approval agencies: the Colorado Water Conservation Board Water Supply Planning and Finance section, Department of Local Affairs.

In addition, our attorneys, Collins, Cockrel and Cole, can supply information about the state laws that govern special districts such as PAWSD that prevent districts from exceeding reasonable debt obligations. Our staff would be happy to provide you with the contact information for these firms.

We trust that the BoCC will make every effort to do a thoroughly professional job of getting all available information about the PAWSD planning and financial situation so that any conclusions may be well supported. The PAWSD board realizes that there may be philosophical differences between PAWSD and the county. We probably do agree on the need for long range planning for future water storage. We may not agree on whether or not growth should pay, at least in part, for the water needs required for growth or if the community as a whole should shoulder that entire financial burden.

The PAWSD board looks forward to a constructive dialogue with the county that will serve the residents of our community in a positive way. We suggest a board-to-board meeting to discuss your concerns.

Respectfully submitted,

Karen A. Wessels, President

Bob Huff, Director

Windsor Chacey, Director

Steve Hartvigsen, Director

Harold Slavinski, Director

Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation Board of Directors

Foolish

Dear Editor:

Community support of a legislative land exchange for the Village at Wolf Creek is foolish at this time. Without impact studies, we are operating in the blind. Once the exchange happens, we have no leverage and no recourse.

All tax revenues will go to Mineral County. Profits will flow to the developer in Texas. The vast majority of jobs will go to the army of seasonal workers who will soon descend. At other resorts, most of these jobs are so low paying green-card workers must be recruited from afar to fill them.

This developer has made no provision for affordable employee housing. A significant number of these predominantly seasonal workers will seek that housing in Pagosa. Each day, hundreds (and eventually thousands) will drive through the middle of Pagosa on 160. Compound this with bumper-to-bumper delivery trucks and Village-bound visitors heading up the pass in rental cars.

Certainly there will be an uptick in certain businesses, gas stations for instance, but at what cost? With thousands of additional vehicles on the roads, particularly in winter, there will be a greatly increased number of accidents, continual sirens though town and increased demands on law enforcement, fire and medical services. How will this pencil?

Economically, fewer wealthy buyers will be interested in purchasing or renting housing in a low-income service community. Why fight the traffic up and back each day when they can have a condo right at the ski area? Likewise, with thousands more skiers crowding the ski area (and housed in the Village), visitors from around the region who now come to Wolf Creek and stay in Pagosa will turn elsewhere. What will these changes do to our local economy? Without an impact study, we have no idea.

Environmentally, we can look forward to significantly increased air pollution (imagine the new haze at the foot of the pass) and the fact that the water in the headwaters streams will be converted entirely to effluent. With a build-out of up to 8,000 visitors, the effluent from the Village may be a lot to swallow (or fish in). We can hope, of course, that all of this will flow down the east side of the pass.

In short, we can expect traffic congestion, accidents, air pollution, thousands of transient workers, affordable housing shortages, increased demand on emergency and social services, lower quality of life, a less attractive community to prospective buyers, renters and businesses, effluent in the streams and, of course, the new nighttime glow blotting out the stars in the east.

The New York Times once described it this way: “Few places in the country reflect an unintended dark side of the nation’s prosperity more than Colorado resort areas like Aspen … working people … can no longer afford to live near their jobs … many of them have been forced to find more affordable housing 30 to 60 miles away, creating monstrous rush-hour traffic jams, polluting the air and undermining the quality of life …”

Is this our vision for Pagosa?

Sincerely,

Lesli Allison

Special

Dear Editor:

I went for a year or so without noticing or even paying attention, until only a few weeks ago. In our high school we have six wonderful, extremely gifted students. Six students who have huge hearts, and eager minds to learn.

I became an A-block aide for the Special Talents class at the high school. In the past few weeks I have realized and learned more from these kids then what I ever thought I was going to. These kids are so talented, it blows my mind. They try so hard and give one hundred percent every day. Honestly I used to not really pay attention to them, thinking that they were just “special” thinking that they were just a bunch of kids. I was right, they are a bunch of kids, but this bunch of kids is intelligent and funny. Some students ask me why I chant cheers for Brian trying his hardest to walk in the hallway, with a smile on my face I simply say, because that’s what friends do. The teachers in that class are devoted to their jobs. Now, from experience, I know why.

Some students in that high school have no idea of how awesome these kids really are. They make fun of them and tease them in the hallway. If they actually took the time and said “hi” to them every once and awhile, they’d have a best friend. I know if I ever needed a hug, I’d get one.

Jordan Harrell

Credit

Dear Editor:

Reference Pagosa SUN 11/12/09, “Town seeks new direction for economic development.”

I’d like to correct a misperception and give credit where credit is due. The federal stimulus funding awarded to PAWSD this year was the result of a fantastic team effort, of which I was only one member. Accolades should be heaped upon Assistant Manager Gene Tautges, Finance Manager Michelle Tressler, project engineer Patrick O’Brien and the myriad of other supporting personnel and agencies too numerous to name here.

Thank you though, Mr. Weiler, for the hyperbole — I have sent the article to my mother.

Sheila Berger

Delighted

Dear Editor:

I was delighted to see a positive letter from a Republican. The health plan sounds terrific. I wonder why they didn’t pass it when they controlled the congress and executive branch a few years ago? I especially like the part about “eliminating the government run option.” Medicare and veterans health programs are breaking the country. But the best part will be the elimination of government-run health care for our congressmen. I always thought it a pity that early in the last Bush administration, the Republicans didn’t manage to “privatize social security,” i.e. turn it over to the Wall Street bankers. Don’t worry about us old folks. We can always steal a shopping cart from City Market and camp out in the city park.

I like the idea of Newt Gingrich, a Republican Catholic, as president. It may come as a surprise to most Americans that the Catholic Church has embraced science 500 years after the unfortunate incident with Galileo. I quote a Fox news release of March 6, 2009: “A Vatican-backed conference on evolution is under attack from people who weren’t invited to participate. Those espousing creationism and intelligent design … organizers of the five-day conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University … wanted an intellectually rigorous conference on science, theology and philosophy to mark the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s Origin of the Species.” Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation of the Faith, spoke dismissively of Fundamental Christians in the U.S. who want schools to teach Biblical creationism alongside or instead of evolution. “Muslim creationists also complained about the conference.” In my view, the replacement of science with creationism would reduce the U.S.A. to third world status in a decade.

I feel sorry for Newt, as he isn’t able to take communion because of his marital status, but Americans are more than willing to excuse politicians and movie stars for their infidelities. Not the poor kids will end up with unwanted pregnancies, though.

Speaking of kids, I quote another Fox news release dated Nov. 6, 2009: “Report says 75 percent of young Americans unfit for military service.” The kids are unable to pass the physical and education tests, according to the article. I consider this our most pressing national problem. Thank God for the other 25 percent. Of course, if President Newt goes on TV to tell the kids to shape up, the Democrats will have to pull their kids out of school.

Bob Dungan

Arboles

Crazy

Dear Editor:

The notion of refinancing town asset, to fund a $200,000 per year budget for the Archuleta Economic Development Association (AEDA) is plain crazy. If the current recession was triggered in large part due to the over leveraging of assets by the average American as well as Fortune 500 companies, then why would anyone in their right mind suggest that the town, which already skimps by with the tightest of budgets, leverage assets? That’s right: the Town could always pay off the new loan with revenues from development fees. Oh, wait, we got rid of those. I guess the town could use sales tax revenue. Darn, that’s down. Although I applaud the efforts of the AEDA, I strongly believe their thinking is slightly misguided.

For example, some of the money is to go to employing a grant writer. Yes, PAWSD, was able to secure $9 million-plus out of the “stimulus” package. However, the simple fact is this: You can bring in $50 million in grant money to the local area and still not see much of an impact from the perspective of local labor. The clause in those grants that does not allow local governments to use the “10 percent local bidder advantage,” kills almost any hopes of local contractors getting the jobs. The true way out of the local recession is to realize what kind of town Pagosa is and capitalize on that.

Mr. Editor, you hit the nail on the head in July. Two major elements of Pagosa’s economic blood were mentioned: tourism and building. Every person in this town knows Pagosa lives on tourism. During all four seasons, Pagosa always has some number of tourists. Those tourists come back and buy Pagosa land with the intentions on building here. What people need to realize is they do not care about developmental fees. Pagosa is not Denver. You move here because you want to move here, not because you have to move here. I would have to ask the mayor about the success of the waiver program to date. I would be very surprised if the program has done very much for new or large construction projects.

I do understand the importance of offering a solution following a complaint. The idea of having a “money finder” within local government is a great one. However, that should be a specific position offered through the town or county so that it may be properly budgeted for. I’m sure that a grant or two exists, specifically designed for counties and towns that rely on tourism. The town may also consider promoting Pagosa in mass media. A lot of people go to Telluride without even knowing that Pagosa exists on the map. We are smaller and cheaper, but offer multiples of what a commercialized tourist attraction does. Tourists need to know what they’re missing. Give tourists solid infrastructure and great hospitality and they will come back time and time again. There is no need to leverage town assets; the risk does not outweigh the benefits. No matter how hard any of us try to get Pagosa back to prosperity, it will take years, not months. Economies, large or small, don’t operate like fast food. Time, effort and patience is what will get Pagosa back on its feet again. Taking on more debt, especially when revenues are declining, never seems to work out.

Taro Hill

An end to war

Dear Editor:

As I sat this past Wednesday observing Veterans Day, I also commemorated the original Armistice Day. It is also known as Remembrance Day and, by an act of Congress, is “a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.” I took the traditional two minutes of silence “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” to honor and remember all those who bring an end to war.

Sincerely,

Terry Pickett

Thankful

Dear Editor:

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m thankful that this great country provides police and fire protection to all. We all pay and we are all protected. Some would consider this to be socialistic.

I’m thankful and proud that we provide education for all of our children, using taxpayers’ money. Again, some would classify this as socialism.

I hope that we can eventually provide basic affordable health care for all citizens. We could then be thankful and proud that our nation is morally responsible for the health and well being of all citizens.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Bruce Trenk

Mostly negative

Dear Editor:

Following up on Mr. Dungan’s request for positive news, again I tried to find some, but only came up with mostly negative facts (perhaps he can find something positive). These reaffirm the need to replace the current administration.

The latest Gallup poll of independent voters reveals that 53 percent plan to vote Republican and 30 percent Democrat in the 2010 Congressional election. The point spread (2 percent a month ago) continues on a widening path.

As predicted, Anita Dunn, the Maoist Communication czar, has quit.

A lady at an undisclosed location was asked by a reporter why she was there. “To get money from Obama,” she replied. “Where does Obama get the money?” she was queried. “From his stash,” she answered. “That’s why I voted for him, because he promised to give me money,” she concluded. His goal is redistribution.

Sixty percent of Obama voters were ages 18 to 27, who believed in his promises. Now, Obama wants to charge them more for health insurance to provide for the elderly at a ratio of two to one, or to fine them if they refuse to buy government insurance. The CBO warned Baucus four weeks ago that the Democratic plan would raise the cost of health care.

There are now 6.1 applicants for every available job.

On cap and trade, bill co-author Boxer urged rapid passage because the EPA did a “full-blown analysis” of costs. Actually, senators urged delay because the EPA had not yet done an analysis of costs. Co-sponsor Kerry urged rapid passage because “over the last eight years, emissions of greenhouse gases went up four times faster than in the 1990s.” Actually, he is off by a factor of 32. Ignorant of the truth, they still want rapid passage before we can study and oppose it. If passed, it will be far more costly to us than the “postage stamp a day” promised by Kerry.

A Congressman was asked in an interview to name one campaign promise Obama has kept. His response was silence. The brilliant Charles Krauthammer in a recent speech told his audience to pay no attention to what Obama says, but to watch what he does. Ninety-six percent of interviewees disagreed with Obama’s refusal to call the murderer at Ft. Hood, Hassan, a terrorist. His mollification of terrorists is emboldening them.

Other congressmen were asked to name one of the 17 powers granted by the states to the federal government in the Constitution. They could not. Government-run health care, financial institutions and the auto industry are not among them. The government is moving away from its limiting constitutional roots to assume unlimited unconstitutional power.

Thomas Jefferson said that when the people fear government, you have tyranny, but when the government fears the people, you have freedom. The government needs to be reminded that it works for us, not we for it. We can do so, and restore our freedom, by our votes next election.

Eugene Witkowski